Online video giants working both behind and in front of the camera gathered today at the Digitas NewFront conference  in New York City. While the main purpose of the conference is to unite creative talent with brands and advertisers looking to buy into online video, the high-minded conference takes a broader view than simply commerce.
During an early day session called “Stars of the Social Screens,” makeup guru Michelle Phan , online superstar Felicia Day , and TV and Broadway superstar Kristin Chenoweth  gathered to talk about what social media tips work for them. The panel was moderated by CNN’s Piers Morgan , who seemed delighted by this new thing called social media.
Your latest video should be your best video, said Phan, who agreed with the idea that no matter how popular a person or brand might be online, they’re only as good as their latest creation. What works in online video is storytelling she said. She also believes that staying on top online means staying on top of new social media platforms. This past year saw the sudden growth of Pinterest and Instagram, she noted.
“As a brand, it’s so important to be on every single platform if you want to reach out to everyone,” said Phan.
Day said that she likes to provide a service with her social media offerings, such as highlighting a worthwhile Kickstarter campaign. She knows her audience and knows what they’ll appreciate.
“Being selfish on the web gets nobody anywhere,” Day said.
Chenoweth noted that it’s important to be authentic online, to show one’s true self to followers. She also offered a tip on what not to do:
“I Ambien tweet sometimes which is no good. No no no no good,” admitted Chenoweth. Later in the day, on another panel. Bravo’s Andy Cohen noted that Chenoweth was worth following for exactly that reason.
In a panel called “Stuck at the Like,” representatives of major brands told about their company’s experiments in social media, and how to use it to engage consumers.
“If we want people to engage in the content, it has to be something of value,” said Diego Scotti of J. Crew . He told of a low-cost experiment that his company ran, soliciting men’s style questions for an in-house stylist That feature now draws over 1,500 comments per week, he said. The feature isn’t expensive, but adds value to the site.
J. Crew isn’t completely comfortable in the social space, Scotti admitted, something that certainly many companies can relate to. There are currently 13 blogs and websites about J. Crew, he said. While there’s a lot of discussion of his brand, his company so far hasn’t joined in. Execs are reluctant because of the possibility that people might post unflattering comments or photos about J. Crew products.
“We haven’t figured out how to leverage that energy,” Scotti said.
The value of experimentation was driven home by Christa Carone of Xerox , who told about her company’s experiments with promoted tweets. The move drew some negative feedback, but also resulted in an uptick in key metrics. The definition of success varies with each experiment, she said.
“Right now we’re all experimenting, right?” Carone asked.
While there are many tips to learn in online video and social media, being open to the value of experimentation is one of the best.